I enjoyed Nick Smith’s latest post Don’t just do Something Stand there! Here’s the nub of it but I recommend the whole thing.

By valuing thinking over awareness we mistake knowledge for understanding, and therein lies our downfall. It is thinking that gets us so fixated on the world of form that we mistake it for reality – we see the surface form and overlook the energetic wholeness that animates the whole show. We see effects and become blind to causes. Not knowing any better we try to fix what we see, but we keep failing because what we see is merely the effect of a process that starts with us. Our frustration at our inability to fix our world just drives up the anxiety and fear as we feel more and more like powerless victims, and then this grotesque self-image becomes the breeding ground for yet more fearful thoughts which then just add to the chaos and confusion we seem to see ‘out there’.

But when we embrace stillness a miracle starts to happen. We begin to feel and recognise the connection that exists between us – some call it Presence.

I like the connection Nick makes between stillness and presence. What Nick says here also goes to the heart of something I’ve become increasingly aware of… that there are important aspects of our experience, I might say of life itself, that cannot be put into language. We can sense them, but when we attempt to verbalise them we lose the connection. As Nick describes, if you find yourself in a state of flow, the moment you start thinking “this is great”, you break the flow.

Much of our thinking about how groups of people work together deals in the things we can make explicit. So, for instance, it’s accepted as a truism that a group of people can only function effectively if they agree on a common goal. That’s why we hear so much about the value of mission statements/visions/values and so forth.

But I don’t think that notion is actually all that true. Scratch most groups of people, high or low functioning, and I doubt you’ll find more than a superficial degree of agreement about the group’s explicit goals, values etc. I question the impact of laboured efforts to get folks to agree to those statements.*

I’m rather more intrigued by what I suspect is the real agreement, which is essentially the one to go on together, at least for the time being. Loads of organisations carry on working with staff who spend time thinking about leaving… but for the time being, have made the choice to stay. I actually don’t think that is such a terrible thing. I’m not a huge believer in alignment; I think diversity is more interesting and healthy.

Working with groups, I sometimes experience a kind of stillness where I think people become more present to that subtler and deeper sense of connection and belonging. It’s the sort of silence that transcends the efforts of efficiency experts.

(I’ve written a few other posts that relate to this, referencing the notion of the tyranny of the explicit).

* That’s not to say that well-written statements of intent or belief are without value; I know they can often be inspiring… so I’d say, let them inspire people without turning them into contracts.

UPDATE: I love Chris Corrigan’s visual response to this post:

2 thoughts on “Stillness

  1. Nick Smith

    Hi Johnnie

    I absolutely greed with you on the diversity aspect of groups.

    The more diversity the richer the creative soil and less likely there is to be alignment around common explicit goals. In fact when you think about it, it would be a pretty unreasonable expectation to expect a group of any significant size to agree on stuff that’s inherently personal (‘meaning’).

    But I don’t think that’s at all necessary. If individual members of a team know they are valued for who they are and for what they bring to the table then that’s all the glue that’s needed for a team to bond. I don’t think meaning can be ever be brought in from outside but something that has to be discovered personally. But a good team leader can provide the support and opportunity for team members to discover meaning within the context of the project or group.

    I can feel a blog post coming on!

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Nick, yes and I like your elaboration on this too. I think the notion of giving people the opportunity to find meaning in the group is important.

    There may well be explicit goals for the group too but perfect alignment around them would be too much to expect.


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